The founders of LinkedIn intended for its members to use it to leverage and map their personal business networks. This in turn would help them to become more successful professionally.
Like many other social media networks, as features have been added, LinkedIn has morphed into a platform that can now serve a variety of purposes. Let’s look at two approaches to building your LinkedIn network.
One approach is to use LinkedIn to bring your offline network online as described by Dave Gowel in The Power of a Link. This focuses on building a network based on quality in the sense that your connections know you and would have no problem recommending you to someone you want to connect with.
In order for this approach to be effective, you will need a minimum number of connections in order to take advantage of LinkedIn’s ability to connect you with those you want to reach. The broader your first level network, the more people you have access to. Fortunately most people, can easily develop a network of 100 – 200 connections simply by connecting with former classmates, colleagues, friends, family and acquaintances from the past.
The major downside to the quality approach is that you limit your access to LinkedIn’s global network when you restrict your connections to people you already know. You only have access to members who are three degrees removed from you (plus other Group members). The more people you are directly connected with, the harder LinkedIn can work for you.
This brings us to the second connection strategy.
The More Connections, the Better
The second approach is to connect with as many people as possible in order to maximize your reach. This is based on the logic that the more people you are connected with, the more likely you are to have access to potential customers, partners, suppliers, employees, employers and so forth.
This approach is also used by those who have a message to broadcast to the LinkedIn community in addition to using it to build their personal networks. As the world’s largest online professional network LinkedIn is a powerful marketing tool for reaching business owners and professionals.
As with other social networks, however, simply broadcasting a sales message is ineffective. You have to provide value to the community in the form of contributing to discussions, answering questions, giving recommendations and sharing useful information.
Another challenge with the quantity approach can occur when others ask for introductions to individuals within your connections. When you have so many connections that you have no relationship with most of them, you can’t provide a useful introduction for anyone requesting that you help them meet a potentially valuable contact.
There are Pros and Cons to both approaches and you can incorporate elements of each into how you use LinkedIn. What is important is that you understand the implications of each approach and make a strategic decision about how to best use the platform.
What approach to making connections on LinkedIn has worked best for you?